In August's "Notes & News," I introduced you to a "A Sunset Plaza Makeover," the landscape I was designing for an international film produce and his family. The construction has been completed, the planting is coming to an end and the D.D. Blanchard Magnolias I featured in that newsletter are doing brilliantly.This has been an extraordinary project, which I am thrilled to have been able to design and to build.
Defined by a series of descending terraces, my client's new backyard includes a large living area and fire place, a dining area and outdoor kitchen, a pool and spa and a charming entertainment room adjacent to the pool. It also has a wall of water, as I call it, the design and construction of which I thought you might find interesting.
In the process of designing the terraces it was necessary to construct a large concrete retaining wall to support the outdoor kitchen and dining area. Since there was no water feature on any of the terraces, except for the pool and spa, I decided to create a cascading series of illuminated, miniature pools that would be suspended off this retaining wall.
Not only would it break up this large block of concrete, it would serve as a wonderful transition between the pool and spa below and the dining and living areas above. And at night, because of the wall's illumination, it would become a focal point for those using the pool.
Here is my original sketch and elevation. In addition to the steps on the right and the four pools, there are planters on the left that balance out those on the right and integrate the wall into the landscape.
Forms were built and attached to the wall, re-bar was shaped and inserted into the wall and concrete poured onto the forms. Once the concrete had cured, the forms were removed, the pools were waterproofed, a surface stucco was applied and power and water lines were connected.
The bottom of the pools were to be lined with rocks and you cannot believe the variety of rocks that are available – samples of which were presented to my clients. I particularly liked the "Black San Quintin" and wondered if they had seen any hard time.
The Completed Wall Of Water
If you're interested in learning more about our design, contracting and maintenance services and would like to set up a phone consultation or arrange a site inspection, please give me a call (323-461-6556) or email me. I also love giving advice and have provided garden consultations to any number of folks with great results.
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Plant Of The Month
Angel's Trumpets (Brugmansia sp) are dramatic shrubs bearing large pendulous flowers, typically with a sweet scent. A member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), all parts of this narcotic plant are highly toxic and have been used by native cultures in religious ceremonies.
One legend says the plant has a fragrance so strong that it can induce sleep in those who inhale the aroma, and that those who sleep under this tree will have strange and erotic dreams. Other names for Brugmansia species include yerba de huaca (Plant of the Tomb), campanilla, maicoa, tonga, toa, buyes, floripondio, chamico, huanco and huacacachu and borrachero.
Angel's Trumpet is a large shrub, but is often pruned in a tree form, much like Crape Myrtle. The plant can grow to twenty feet and has a frost-tolerant root system, so should your Brugmansia die back from a hard frost, give it another season to recover before giving up the ghost.
A South American native, Brugmansia typically prefers warm or hot days and cool nights, indigenously growing along the Andean and Pacific fringe of the continent from Colombia down to southern Peru and the middle of Chile.
Angel's Trumpets do equally well in shady locations as in direct sun. They perform best in well-drained soil with regular water and feeding. Blooms tend to develop at branch nodes, arrive in flushes, drop off, then repeat the cycle from late spring through early fall.
Brugmansia can be most easily propagated by soft- or hardwood cuttings or layering. Sprout them in peat or plantable containers, to reduce transplant shock.
Because they share the same family as peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes, Angel's Trumpets are subject to many of the same insect attacks: whitefly, spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs, thrips, leaf hoppers, tomato hornworms and army worms. Most of these can be controlled with a simple 1:1 spray of alcohol and water with a squirt of dish soap added.
As narcotics, Angel's Trumpets have been said to produce hallucinations and have aphrodisiac effects. Scopolamine is responsible for the powerful hallucinations. South American natives used to drink infusions of Brugmansia leaves and flowers, and also mix its ground seeds into their maize beer.
The effects of attempting to use Angel's Trumpet as a drug are highly unpredictable and often lead to death. In May of 2005, four Florida teens nearly died after trying to get high off the plant.
In addition to religious and recreational uses, Brugmansia species were also used by pre-Conquest Colombians in a tobacco and maize beer concoction to place slaves and wives of dead kings in a deep narcotic state so they could be buried alive with their masters and husbands.
Present-day Tzeltal Indians of Mexico smoke the dried leaves of B. suaveolens with Nicotiana rustica to produce visions that indicate the cause of various diseases. The Jivaro Indians of eastern Ecuador and Peru used Brugmansia in an enema decoction taken by warriors 'to gain power and foretell the future'.
The plant continues to be valued within South America for its psychoactive properties and ornamental value — cultivation is often supervised by shamans with special knowledge of their botany and pharmacology.
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